As I was enjoying my lunch today and the exciting flavor combinations that were dancing in my mouth, I was reminded of a set of guidelines for cooking that I learned from Chef Rocco DiSpirito when I worked at Rocco's in NYC. Perhaps you remember it as The Restaurant reality tv show from 7 or 8 years ago, starring Mamma's Meatballs and a whole mess of drama. It's funny how and where we pick things up.
I learned a lot of things working at that place (I could be found in the front of the house not in cooking in the kitchen) and some of those lessons continue to inform my thinking about food, creativity, experimentation, taking chances with flavor combinations, and the importance of a satisfying sensory experience.
Try out this tip to exercise your creativity, and turn the contents of your fridge and pantry into a delicious and personal meal. They are the ones I was first introduced to by Rocco but as it turns out also have roots in the ancient tradition of Ayurveda.
It is all about balance, and if you think about it, I think it makes a lot of sense. In your dish you want to hit each flavor that your tongue can taste... that way you are left satisfied and not suffering an imbalance (read: craving).
Sweet- fruit, sweet veggies, natural sugars
Sour- sour fruit, fermented foods, even a squeeze of lemon will satisfy this one
Salty- sea salt, seaweeds
Bitter- leafy greens, herbs and spices like mustard
Pungent- things that are spicy like chilis and garlic
Astringent- legumes, herbs like sage
Umami- the Japanese term for a flavor that hits at the back of the tongue, like edamame or mushrooms... not everyone can taste this
In your next creation try to include as many of these flavors as you can. It can feel bold or against what you may normally think goes together but your taste buds will be delighted.
My lunch, the picture above, was made from things I had on hand today. Here's the recipe if you'd like to try it or use it as inspiration to come up with your own combination. The amount is for one serving, but you could easily multiply to make it for more people... it would also make a great breakfast!
Sausage and Kale
In a frying pan, heat a good dash of olive oil.
- Add 1 minced garlic clove, cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add 1 sliced pre-cooked sausage (I had an organic chicken & apple sausage left over from the weekend, so that's what I used)
- Add 2-3 leaves kale, rinsed and chopped (I actually just tore it into bite sized bits and threw it into the pan)
- Give a few shakes of sea salt, and red/cayenne pepper as desired
- Stir and cover for 2-3 minutes, until bright kale is bright green
- Add a half bunch chopped green onions
- Add a small handful of currants (or raisins)
- Add a small handful of sunflower seeds
- Mix until all heated through
Well Rocco, I guess I'll wrap up this love letter by sending you a big hug and a huge THANK YOU for your inspiration and fearlessness. It was nice having lunch with you today, even if it was only in my mind :). hope you are all well, big hug xxtbone